Itâ€™s been more than a week since pro-democracy protests first broke out in Hong Kong and whatâ€™s now known as the â€œUmbrella Revolutionâ€� began. Ten floors above the passionate crowd in the Admiralty district, Gary Mar has watched it all unfold and seen thousands of people flood the streets.
And amongst the thousands of demonstrators and their opponents, tempers are beginning to fray, Mar said.
â€œA very very large crowd thatâ€™s peaceful and well meaning but very emotional can be inappropriately provoked or agitated,â€� said Mar, Albertaâ€™s representative in Asia, in an interview from Hong Kong on Saturday. â€œIâ€™m watching and reassessing that risk all the time.â€�
Marâ€™s offices are located near the legislative offices of Hong Kongâ€™s central government, which has been the epicentre of the protests, which are in response to Chinaâ€™s announcement in August that would-be candidates for Hong Kongâ€™s next chief executive would be vetted for their loyalty to the countryâ€™s Communist-run government.
Though the protests started as a student movement, thousands of other Hong Kong residents have since joined in the demonstrations.
â€œThis is not a homogenous group of protesters,â€� said Mar, who described the protests as â€œdisciplinedâ€� and â€œorganized.â€�
â€œIt was remarkable to watch how disciplined this crowd was,â€� he said. â€œI walked out there and I watched kids who were doing their homework. In spite of protesting, these students still had homework to do.â€�
Last Sunday, Mar said the number of demonstrators stretched into the tens of thousands.
â€œI really had a birds eye view looking down on the protests,â€� he said. â€œI was watching a very very peaceful demonstration in the early early part of the evening, then police came in with riot gear and started spraying pepper spray and tear gas to try and disperse the crowd.â€�
Since that night, which he characterized as â€œalarming,â€� Mar said police have â€œde-escalatedâ€� their presence.
â€œPolice, I think, recognized that riot tactics werenâ€™t going to move this crowd,â€� he said.
There have been numerous clashes between demonstrators and opponents in the past week and police have done their best to maintain buffer zones between opposing groups, Mar said.
He said heâ€™s supportive of the Canadian governmentâ€™s position on the protests, which is in favour of â€œuniversal suffrage for the people of Hong Kong.â€�
Mar is also paying close attention to the protests to see if their outcome could have an impact on Albertaâ€™s economic interests but so far, he says the protests donâ€™t appear to have impacted business.
Itâ€™s too early to tell, though, what effect the demonstrations will have in the long run, he added.
â€œItâ€™s hard to know what the end point of these events are at this point,â€� said Mar. â€œIf their purpose has been to bring attenion to the democratic rights of Hong Kongers, I think theyâ€™ve porbaly accomplished that.â€™
â€œWhether this is a hinge in history is yet to be determined.â€�